In Texas, there are many forms of child “custody” and child “custodians.” We refer to these persons or entities (as in the case of foster care) as “conservators.” In most situations, the parents will be named “Joint Managing Conservators” (JMC) of the child; this is presumed to be best for most of Texas’ children. JMC is most similar to situations where the parents are still married and make decisions “jointly” for the best interests of their child.
In certain circumstances, if there is agreement between the parties on custody, or evidence to support a different approach, other forms of conservatorship may come into play. A “Sole Managing Conservator” generally has all of the powers of conservatorship (i.e., the authority to consent to medical treatment involving invasive procedures, the power to designate the primary residence of the child, the power to make educational decisions) without any input from the other parent. In contrast, a “Possessory Conservator” generally has visitation rights and will usually have limited authority to make certain parental decisions while the child is in the custody of that conservator.
Most conservators – even JMC – will share custody of the child using the “Standard Possession Schedule” described in the Texas Family Code. The reason the Texas legislature has crafted such a detailed standard schedule is simple – many parents cannot agree as to the best schedule for their children. The Standard schedule attempts to make an even distribution (or as close to even that it can) of each and every minute of the child’s life between the respective parents; this includes all major holidays, the child’s birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, spring break, extended summer visits / vacations, and many, many other situations. The Standard Possession Schedule also sets out who will pick up and who will drop off the child, and where and how this exchange will occur.
Under most situations, the Standard Schedule does an excellent job of allocating the child’s time with each parent in a fair and equitable manner. This is not to say that the Standard Schedule is what is best for your child; we recognize that there are situations where the Standard Schedule is partially or completely inappropriate. Additionally, the Standard Possession Schedule only applies when the conservators/parents cannot agree about visitation. Therefore, for conservators that discuss their child’s schedule and plan out what is best for them, the visitation schedule is whatever you agree it should be – on a day by day and (perhaps) minute by minute basis.
The rules governing child custody, conservatorship and visitation are complicated and an attorney should be consulted for specific questions as to what approach is best suited to your particular situation.
If you have a legal issue related to Texas child custody or visitation issues, particularly in Austin, please contact Austin Attorney Cindy Veidt for an appointment to discuss.